Friday, December 7, 2007

How could this happen?

A 16 year old took an AK-47 into an Omaha mall this week. He killed 8 people.

When I first saw the headline I paused for a minute. But sadly I have to say I was not in total shock.. It would be a stretch to say that this kind of an occurrence is common. It would also be a stretch to say that this type of assault is no longer expected.

I have a hard time rationalizing why someone would choose to do this. No matter how difficult and hard things are in your life, why would you inflict such pain on other people and their families, none of whom were the source of your problems?

After Columbine I had come to a conclusion. It was simply that somethings you can't explain and that there is simply evil in this world that will at times manifest itself. I don't know if I believe that entirely anymore. It seems to me there is a certain percentage of our population that feels left out and ostracized. I am not trying to be insensitive here but the people who are pulling the trigger aren't the prom king and they aren't the football hero. They are the ones that are picked on at school or who are economically powerless. It certainly does not justify their actions but I think it does go a long way to explain why people are doing this. Society has left them out in the cold and somebody is going to pay.

Their actions are sick and wrong but we can't just throw up our hands in the air and not try to reach a solution. We can't just pause after reading about another attack and in most ways no longer be shocked.


GOP Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee stormed into Iowa. He is up in the polls and might actually have a chance to stage an upset in our nation's first caucus. I don't think national politics has seen this much buzz since Joe Lieberman declared "Joe-em-dum".

And why not? This guy is here to address the real issues. What is on his platform? A constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion and to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Hey who needs State's rights there Johnny Conservative.

But even better is his idea of a Fair Tax. Every few years it seems that politicians jump on this bandwagon. The tax code is long and complicated. Damn near need a Ph.D to figure your taxes. I got an idea! How about a flat tax. Huckabee is suggesting this too. His platform would scrape the income tax system as we know it and replace it with a national sales tax. The news report I read is the national sales tax rate could be as high as 23 percent.

I have to tell you, I don't know if the flat tax is a good idea. Part of what the Internal Revenue Code does (other than as a revenue device) is it encourages certain good things. The first thing that comes to mind is charitable contributions. Now I don't mean to be a cynic but I think the generosity of many of my fellow Americans is certainly enhanced by their tax deductions every year. Will this continue if there is a national sales tax? Sure but logically not to the same extent. Who is going to pick up the tab for the services that these charitable organizations can no longer provide due to lack of funding? The government. That won't be cheap.

Plus the Code encourages companies to spend money (it also encourages them to stay in debt but we will leave that for another day). Say you are in the business of printing and you go and buy a nice printing press for 100K. Sure you need it to stay in business but that depreciation you get to take for the next seven years or so is a nice incentive to spend cash. Under this flat tax proposal you now get an additional 23K cost up front and no deduction to your gross receipts. Heck when you sell the printing press in a few years you will get hit with another tax due. It doesn't have a basis to offset the the money you bring it. Under Huckabee's plan the income tax laws don't exist!

You got a loss that you could normally deduct? Can't anymore. There's no income tax code. Oh well. Go drown your sorrows in a bottle of three dollar Bud. I mean $3.69 bottle of Bud.

Sell your home. Look out for the tax bill.

I fail to see how this is going to boost any economic activity. Sure people will have more money to spend but with taxes that high are they going to be able to?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

IUPUI 89 UMass 77

I read this story today with great interest. I have always rooted for underdogs and I have followed the progression of the IUPUI basketball program with great interest. Notwithstanding my alumni status, I can't help but to root for them given the infectious personality of their coach, Ron Hunter.

I was first impressed that a program of the stature of U Mass would come and play IUPUI at its gym. I don't know if you have ever seen the place where the Jaguars play (affectionately referred to as "The Jungle") but it is underwhelming at best. Put it this way, I went to a high school that had a student enrollment of 330 and it had a gym is larger than where IUPUI, a Division I program, plays. I gave Ron Hunter a lot of credit for sticking around after Ball State came a knocking for his services this past summer. A arena may not make a program but the comparison between those two schools athletic facilities could not be more drastic.

Regardless, U Mass came to town and left tonight with a loss. For a team whose previous biggest win was over Indiana State (sorry Torpor) this is huge. Coach Hunter deserves a lot of credit for recruiting the caliber of players to beat such a stored program-- in spite of their underwhelming facility.

Coach Hunter's loyalty to IUPUI is also commendable. How often have we seen a coach promise a kid he will be around only to jump ship at the next "better" offer? I can count at least two times this has happened while Coach Hunter was at IUPUI and he stayed at the school.

Congrats to the team. Now trustees how about an arena on campus for the team?
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